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Mission building - the work begins.

"A man must fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one's life with meaning. - Chaim Potok

As was noted at the end of last month's column, this month's page covers the steps needed to create and maintain a mission. However, because individuals and organizations are very different (thank heavens), I will not outline a step-by-step, one-size-fits-all method. Rather, I will share thoughts in hopes of provoking a creative learning process that will work best for your situation.

While others can assist in facilitating the mission process, personal and corporate ownership is a must. A mission must be created, owned and believed by those who make it live.

The title of this column is "Management Matters." Management is important to the efficient use of capital resources. Put another way, "you manage things." Because building a mission is about people, leadership not only "matters" - it is crucial. People are led, not managed. To give purpose to an organization, leadership must lead by facilitating a blend of different thoughts into a cohesive meaning. This can only be accomplished in an atmosphere of trust.

Francis Fukuyama stated, "Widespread distrust in a society imposes a kind of tax on all forms of economic activity, a tax that high-trust societies do not have to pay." An example of mistrust in mission building can be seen in last year's film, Jerry Maguire. The movie begins with Jerry feeling the need to find a purpose to his life. As a result, he developed a mission statement and was admired for bringing focus to his life.

Unfortunately, this admiration wasn't felt by all. Some associates, especially company management, perceived his organized style and statement of purpose as a threat to their well being. This lack of trust led to Jerry's dismissal and the story unfolds as Jerry finds deeper meaning and purpose under adverse circumstances.

A quote from Mark and Alan Frohman sums up the need for trust: "Trust is fundamental for effective and timely decisions and actions that every organization, big or small, must make to survive in a rapidly changing, intensely competitive environment."

If the mission building process is accomplished in an atmosphere of trust, a learning experience develops and unity of purpose is created. We will return to the film later, but let's take a few moments to "pay our respects."

Start at 'The End'

To facilitate the establishment of individual and corporate values, visualize yourself attending a funeral. You walk into the church to pay your last respects. The casket is at the front of the church with appropriate music being played and beautiful flowers all around. As you walk the aisle, you realize that the people in attendance are your family and friends. As you look inside the casket, you see yourself - it is your funeral. Accompanying the minister is a family member, your next-door neighbor and a business associate. What will they say? What would you want them to say?

This exercise helps us think where we are and where we want to be at the end of our lives. As you begin building your corporate mission, ask these same questions. If the corporation were to end today, what comments on its life would be made by your customers, employees and the community? What would you want them to be? Would they reflect the true core values of you and your associates?

A cornerstone in the mission building process is to discover your purpose for existing. This is not only a proactive method for starting the mission building process; it can also be an enjoyable team building experience. By the way, this is not something that is "done and forgotten." The process should be reviewed periodically to benchmark improvement.


When wording your mission focus, remember that if it can't be remembered, chances are it won't instill ownership among all parties. An example I like to use is "Quality Is Job One." We all know the company and the focus of this statement. If this seems too simple, recall that the Boeing 777 was built with the mission statement of "Working Together." These two words provided a focus that created a revolutionary method for manufacturing aircraft. In Boeing's most recent company report, "Working Together" was emphasized with the words trust, respect, listening, sharing, confidence and success.

I'm not suggesting that a mission statement must be less than six words, but it probably shouldn't be any longer than a standard 14-word sentence. Facilitating input by all in the word-smithing of a mission statement creates ownership and synergy, and can be fun as well as meaningful.

What's Next

Goals are waypoints that lead us to mission destination. When goals are developed, they should be evaluated for their value in accomplishing the mission. If a goal doesn't take you closer to the mission's destination, then it is off-course and should be corrected. Setting review and completion dates for mission goals provides an organized internal benchmarking of mission accomplishments.

When building bridges, engineers design flexible structures. This flexibility provides strength during changing conditions. Likewise, mission building should be a flexible process that is open to positive change. Building a mission is a circular process that promotes never-ending improvement.

Back to the movie, Jerry Maguire departed from his mission to follow a short-sided goal of "Show Me the Money!" In following this incorrect course, he became lost. When he returned to his original mission - personal best - the money and (more importantly) his true purpose was realized.

Mission building sharpens focus, unlocks potential and creates opportunities for continual learning and growth. Like any construction project, it requires work. But it's also work worth doing.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Foundry Society, Inc.
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Title Annotation:part 2
Author:Barnhard, Dwight
Publication:Modern Casting
Date:Nov 1, 1997
Previous Article:Eight steps to environmental compliance.
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